PA to Get Healthcare First?

By David Swanson

I’ve been writing about various states just beginning campaigns for single-payer healthcare. Pennsylvania is on the cusp of completing one.

They claim to have the best legislation, which will provide everyone with healthcare, pay for it, and in fact save people and businesses money, as well as getting around the federal restrictions Congressman Dennis Kucinich has attempted unsuccessfully thus far to waive for states. In Pennsylvania they have Democratic and Republican cosponsors. Imagine that in Washington, D.C.! And they have a governor ready to sign the bill into law.

Health Care for All Pennsylvania clearly has one of the best websites. Pennsylvania’s campaign at , led by Chuck Pennacchio, makes a good model for other states to learn from and provides resources other states might do well to borrow or modify. This website is full of PDFs, power points, charts, and videos explaining the benefits of state-level single-payer healthcare, plus all kinds of references for further reading, and even a good list of links to similar campaigns in other states, including California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

The Pittsburgh City Paper covered this story last week:

“The chance of anything of substance happening in Washington, D.C. … is less than zero,” says Chuck Pennacchio, executive director of Health Care for All Pennsylvania. “We’ve been saying that for more than three years. Now people are finally listening.”

In fact, this month the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee called for the passage of a single-payer system. Pittsburgh City Council and Allegheny County Council also previously passed resolutions supporting various single-payer initiatives.

[State Senator Jim] Ferlo says he’s not sure the most viable Democratic candidate ran against Brown in Massachusetts, and he believes Brown’s victory was voter reaction to the Democratic Party. “We finally win power in the House, Senate and White House and we’re sitting on our hands. That’s why I think a lot of people are frustrated,” Ferlo says. “They want decisive action.

“I hate to criticize my own party,” Ferlo adds — but “[w]hat great things have they done?”

Ferlo’s own initiative is Senate Bill 400, known with a companion measure in the House as the Pennsylvania Family and Business Health Care Security Act of 2009. The legislation proposes a statewide, publicly funded health-insurance system to replace what Ferlo calls “profit-driven insurers.”

“We’re basically talking about keeping private choice for providers and consumers,” Ferlo says, while using a “cost-effective method” of paying for it. Ferlo likens his approach to a “‘Medicare for All’ system” — citing the federally funded health-insurance system offered to seniors. Twelve percent of Pennsylvanians are enrolled in Medicare; 62 percent use a private insurer. But despite Medicare and other government programs, fully 1 million Pennsylvanians have no insurance at all — something Ferlo calls “morally repugnant.”

. . . Says Gary Tuma, Gov. Ed Rendell’s press secretary: “Always we’d want to see the details of a bill, but in general, if a bill for single payer got through the House and Senate, yes, he’d sign.”

Many see that as a significant concession. “California passed [a reform proposal] twice and now a third time, and [Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger vetoed it,” says Pennacchio, of Health Care for All Pennsylvania. “What’s different about Pennsylvania than other states is we have a commitment from the governor to sign.”

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